How do you humble yourself before a true enemy? How to you love and serve someone whom you know is going to turn on you and sell you out? How do you wash the feet of the one you know is going to betray you in just a few hours?
At the Thursday gathering of the disciples during what we call the Last Supper, the gospel of John tells us that the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray him. (Judas was a wicked man whose evil flame was intensified by Satan’s fan). As Jesus one by one washed the feet of the disciples, at one point He came to Judas. While there is no recorded dialogue during this interaction, the understanding of the Scriptural text of the evening is that Jesus washed Twelve sets of feet. I marvel at the composure of mind possessed by the Savior during this scene! How do you wash the feet of the one whom you know is going to betray you?
John gives us some insight into the psyche of Jesus when he says in John 13:3, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God. The composure of Jesus was a result of His self-knowledge, His relational identity with His Father and His clear sense of destiny. He possessed a full consciousness and deep awareness of self, identity and purpose accompanied with an experiential knowledge of His Father that carried Him through difficulty. This heart-felt knowledge, acceptance, affirmation of being, and love that He had received from all eternity from His Father overflowed in Jesus so that he could give Himself away, serve everyone, live with people’s dirt and even in love, wash the feet of the traitor.
Jesus could stick with the plan of redemption and maintain His clear purpose for coming to the earth because He was rooted and grounded in the love of the Father. He experienced the breadth, length, height, and depth of the Love of God which surpasses knowledge. He had this composure of mind because He had already obtained victory over death, His eyes lifted to his glorious triumph which was soon to come. And He (like us) was already seated in the heavenlies! What composure! What wonderful patience to endure the washing of the feet of the trusted friend who would sell him out! He knew that His death was ultimately a passage back to the heavenly kingdom (as yours will be) and this brought him a composure of mind in the midst of adversity. Through the entire length of His humiliation as a man, He is not even shaken until he must enter into being forsaken by His own Father, an experience that a child of God will never have to endure again.
Meatloaf sang the popular song, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that” which became an instant classic when Dr. Pepper picked it up for their commercial a few years ago. The commercial pictures a young man who would do anything for his girlfriend including the purchasing of her feminine products, the folding of her laundry and accompanying her to Yoga class and on shopping trips. But when it came to giving up the thing he loved most, his 12 oz. can of cold Dr. Pepper, he chose to draw the line there and break off the relationship. She just wasn’t worth it.
At the beginning of the events of the Passion week of Jesus Christ, the Gospel-writer John gives Jesus’ purpose statement:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1ff
John’s gospel deliberately omits many things which he knew were covered by Matthew and Mark but here in the scene of the foot-washing of the disciples as in other places he explains a narrative which was left out by the others, one which clearly had a deep impact on him. John saw this foot-washing not just as an example of servanthood, but a gesture of the deep love and affection that Jesus had for His own. This was the beginning of an extended weekend where Jesus would give many visible signs of His firm, lasting love that would never be quenched not even by death. John understood that the totality of the humiliation of the Son of God from his conception to taking the form of a servant in the foot-washing to His suffering, death and burial was all motivated by tender love.
We ought also to fix our hearts on this conviction for he bears the same tender affection for us.
Jesus’ love motive is in full operation in the foot-washing, which is an integral moment with the whole of His Life of Humiliation which began in His conception and ended in His death, burial and descending before His exaltation in resurrection, ascension and the sitting at the right hand of the Father. The purpose of all of this was to merit salvation for His people. Jesus refused to draw the line of the extent of His love for us. A love that extended from the washing of our dirt all the way to his suffering and death. Jesus says to all who believe and trust in Him, “You’re worth it! I would do anything for love, even that!”